Steelers vs. Jets: Shamarko Thomas will gain snaps over Ryan Clark in base defense

Kirk Irwin

The rookie Thomas can earn a starting position this season if he plays consistently enough, according to a source.

A source has informed Behind The Steel Curtain long-time starter Ryan Clark will see his role diminished, starting in Week 6 against the New York Jets. Rookie Shamarko Thomas will play more with the team's base package, and if his play is consistent, he will eventually be the starter.

It's not out of the question Thomas will start against the Jets, but for now, expect Thomas to see more action in the base defense. Any sort of targeted amount of plays the team wants Thomas to get is uncertain, and it wouldn't take much for Thomas to get an increase - he's only averaging 16 plays a game.

Clark has played at a Pro Bowl level the last two seasons, and while the start of 2013 hasn't shown him to be at his best, few on the Steelers' defense can claim that. His contract us up after the 2013 season, and isn't expected to be re-signed.

The Steelers are currently 25th in the NFL in run defense, allowing 122 yards per game, and they have yet to register a takeaway - the only team in the NFL to have failed in that area. By the end of Week 3, every other team had at least one takeaway.

Clark has 29 tackles this season, but Pro Football Focus tagged him with five missed tackles through four games. He had 12 missed tackles all of last season, according to the play evaluation web site.

Thomas, one of the team's two fourth-round draft picks, was acquired after a draft-day trade with the Cleveland Browns. The Steelers sent their 2013 third-round pick to Cleveland for the 111th pick in the 2012 draft, and used it to select Thomas. They later selected Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones with their original fourth-round pick.

Thomas has seen 64 snaps in the Steelers' first four games, filling in at the nickel back position when William Gay replaced Cortez Allen. He's made two tackles on special teams so far, and four on defense.

Clark is one of the more colorful personalities on the team, and has done extensive TV work recently, including a few stints on ESPN during the Steelers' bye week. He was signed as a free agent in 2006, and started on the team's Super Bowl championship team in 2008, and its AFC Championship team in 2010.

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